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Cambridge Rugby Shield


Mar 17

Fylde Away Preview

This Saturday the Blood and Sand head to Lancashire to play Fylde.

On the 15th of December 1830, the High Sheriff of Lancashire attended the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway. On the death of his brother Peter Hesketh had inherited the family estate and adopted the name of his ancestors the Fleetwoods. He realised the railway could not only carry freight, but would be able to take the mill workers on day trips. He therefore decided to set up a holiday resort on the Lancashire coast and link it to the mill towns by railway. His first efforts were at Southport where he already owned much of the land. But after initial success he decided that he could set up a whole new town on the Fylde coast at the mouth of the Wyre. He called the new resort Fleetwood and linked it to the mills with the Preston and Wyre railway. In 1846 a branch line was opened to Blackpool - which at the time had a population of a few hundred. Blackpool soon eclipsed Fleetwood - and Peter Hesketh-Fleetwood died if not in penury in much reduced circumstances.

Lytham had been a seaside resort for many years, relying on the coaching trade. The Lord of the Manor, the Cliftons had improved the road and financed a stage coach service to Lytham and Blackpool. But the presence of the new railway line running through Lytham to Blackpool South encouraged another entrepreneur Elijah Hargreaves to create a new resort in 1874 based round the chapel of St Annes which had be built the year before to serve a fishing hamlet. The Cliftons leased him the land - though they retained the right to hunt game for the 999 year term. As the resorts grew, While Blackpool was brash, Lytham and St Anne's were genteel. Lytham and St Annes merged into a single town Lytham-St Annes, there is much debate over the apostrophe. It is home of golf clubs rather than kiss me quick hats.

In 1919 a group of businessmen set up a sporting club in the town and on the spin of a coin they chose rugby over soccer. They chose the colours of Huddersfield Old Boys, though the reason why has been lost. Fylde still wear the colours. The clubs heyday was in the 1980, when Bill Beaumont, Brain Ashton and Roger Uttley played for club and country. In the professional era the club slipped from the top flight to level 4, regaining level 3 in 2011. There is still a railway station next to the Fylde ground, but unfortunately due to engineering works trains will be replaced by buses this weekend.

Fylde sit one place and four points ahead of Cambridge. If Cambridge can find their mojo again they could leap frog Esher - who play Rosslyn Park on Friday night - and Fylde. On the other hand another poor performance would see us slp back towards Hull Ionians and Blaydon and the relegation places.

When Fylde came to Cambridge we won 36-0 with tries from Lawrence Hutchinson, Ean Griffiths, Louis Rawlings and James Ayrton and a perfect defence. Fylde lost their last game at Ampthill, but had won the previous three against Blaydon, Hull Ionians and Coventry.


Mar 17

Esher Preview

Thee are three matches this Saturday.

Play starts at 13:00 with the 2nds taking on the Royal Engineers.

Then at 14:30 the 3rds fresh from their semi final victory last week, will take on Sawston.

The final match sees the Blood and Sand entertain Esher kicking off at 15:00.

We are offering free entry to all military personal and veterans who arrive for the 2nds match and show ID or a veterans badge.

Car Wash

The Under 13s will once again attempt to organise a car wash to raise funds for their tour to Treviso.

The boys will be ready to start at 11:30 and will be accepting donations, we are suggesting at least £5 per car but please give as much as you can.

The team and coaches would like to thank:

  • Urban & Civic Plc.

  • Millcam

  • Beechwood estates & development

  • Cambridge Lakes Golf

  • NFU

for sponsoring the tour. Without them it would not be possible to take the boys on a trip that will mean so much to them and create a life memory.


Royal Engineers

The Sappers have a long history, from the 14th century the Keeper of the Privy Wardrobe at the Tower of London had responsibility to provide the King's forces with gunpowder. As artillery became commonplace the role was transferred to a Board of Ordnance , who also took over maintenance of fortifications. In 1716 the Board founded the Royal Artillery and a Corp of Engineers at its base at the Arsenal at Woolwich. Originally consisting purely of commissioned officers - with civilian labour - but during the Great Siege of Gibraltar a Soldier Artificer company was set up to dig the first of its military tunnels. It is said that Gibraltar has more miles of tunnel than surface road.  After the Crimean War and the problems with logistics, the Board of Ordnance was abolished and Engineers and Artillery brought into the Army and moved from Woolwich to Chatham. Although the Corps has no battle honours its motto Uibque represents its involvement in all conflicts.

The Engineers have always been keen on sport, providing two of the England XX for the first international, Lts Sherrard and Crompton - though they are usually credited to their club Blackheath. Henry Renny-Tailyour played for the Engineers in the first FA Cup final and for Scotland in the unofficial international of 1871 and the first official match in 1873,scoring Scotland's first goal. More importantly he also played the 1872 Rugby international. All those matches were held at the Oval. He remains the only man to have represented Scotland in both codes.


Esher's position on the Thames, just upstream of London means that it has long connections with royalty. When we visited I told you about the country house called Claremont. While this was the haunt of Royalty, the Church lived at Esher Place. In the thirteenth century., Peter de Roches was a powerful noble in Touraine in the Loire valley. England has suffered the Anarchy. Mathilda Lady of the English was at war with her cousin Stephen in a war perhaps only now remembered by readers of Brother Cadfael books. The result was that Stephen reigned, but made Mathilda's son Henry II his heir. Most of Henry's lands were in France, so in his rule and that of his sons, Richard and John many of the top jobs went to Frenchmen. England was if anything the lesser part of the Empire. Peter was made Lord Chamberlain by Richard the Lionheart and Bishop of Winchester by John. Winchester is too far from power, so Peter built a palace at Esher Place.

The Bishop's of Winchester retained control of the Bishopric. In the 15th Century William Waynfleet, also Lord Chancellor, replaced Peter's building with an ornate Tudor mansion. In the time of  Henry VIII. Cardinal Wolsey, who was already Archbishop of York, Papal Legate and Lord Chancellor was appointed Bishop of Winchester in 1529 at the zenith of his power. Alas he failed in his mission to obtain an annulment for the King - perhaps the only man in the country more powerful than him and that was his downfall. He was kept in house arrest in Esher and the King seized the land. Mary, restored it to the Church. Elizabeth gave it to her Admiral Lord Howard of Effingham, who gave it to his agent Richard Drake - a cousin to Francis. It was used to detain several of the Spanish Admirals.

In he 1720s it belongs to Henry Pelham, brother to the Duke of Newcastle. He rebuilt all but the gatehouse in the modern style. Eighty years later, London merchant Francis Spicer did the same. The final rebuild was by Edgar Vincent Viscount D'Arbenon. He had been Governor of the Imperial Ottoman Bank. He survived financial scandal - a financial bubble in South African mine shares - and revolution - Armenian separatists took over the bank and he escaped though a sky light. He returned to England and was elected to Parliament as a Conservative but  swept away by the 1906 Liberal landslide. Like many free trade Tories, including Winston Churchill, he crossed the floor to join the Liberals and was raised to the peerage by Asquith. The First War swept away those landed classes and the building was sold to the Ragged School Union and then to the Electrical Trades Union - which through a number of mergers is now Unite. But the gatehouse Wainfleet's tower still stands.

Cambridge fist played Esher in the season they were relegated from National 1 when it was reduced from 16 to 12 teams to form the Championship. Esher as the highest placed side to face the drop received compensation from the RFU for the unexpected relegation. That enabled them to keep their professional side together and they earned promotion at the first attempt - scoring a record 200 tries in a season. Though that is under threat from Hartpury. They did not stay up long being relegated again in 2012 - our last season in National 1.  They lost out to Ealing that season and have been at level three ever since.

Currently they sit one place below Cambridge also on seven wins - but no draws. We have four more try bonus points so we are 5 points ahead. The game at Hersham Rd was an open running affair. We lost by five tries to four. Jack Green who had kicked his first five attempts had a difficult conversion kick to get the losing bonus point but could not split the posts, so we left with just the one point. We need to turn that around at home and claim the win. It will be a tough game - we need to be on our mettle. If we play well, we will take all the points, but if we give them an inch hey may well take a mile.

Do come down to Volac Park and roar the boys home.

Feb 17

Blackheath Preview

This Saturday Cambridge welcome Blackheath to Volac Park.

The Blackheath Club was founded by some of the old boys of Blackheath Proprietary School. The school was founded in 1830, money to build the School was raised by the sale of shares - each shareholder was also entitled to send a boy to the school. The school prospered for nearly eighty years. Among its old boys is Surgeon General William Manley, the only man to be awarded the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross. The latter for services with the British Ambulance Brigade in the Franco-Prussian War. During which he was also awarded the Cross of the Société Française de Secours aux Blessés Militaires - the forerunner of the French Red Cross.

The school was keen on sports and adopted the running game popular at Rugby. Sometime before 1858, a group of Old Blackheathens started a club to enable them to continue playing after leaving school. There not being enough old boys to support the team, and there being a number of old Rugbians living locally, they encouraged them to join what became famously the oldest open Football Club. There is some dispute about this as Liverpool FC - now Liverpool St Helens - and Sheffield FC were both founded in 1857. Of the three Blackheath were the only one to join the Football Association at its first meeting. Sheffield send observers but only joined a month later. It was Sheffield's opposition of hacking and running with the ball that led Blackheath to withdraw. Seven year's later Blackheath helped organise a meeting at the Pall Mall Restaurant which led to formation of the RFU and the selection of an England side to travel to Edinburgh to play the first international match. Again there is confusion. Many sites say the meeting was in Regent St - but the plaque is on Cockspur St a few hundred metres away. This might explain why the representative of Wasps is said to have gone to the wrong restaurant.

When the leagues arrived, Blackheath were placed in the second tier. They stayed there until the leagues were reduced to 10 teams each. They were promoted again in 1995 but two successive demotions in 1999 and 2000 dropped them to level 4. Blackheath regained the third tier in 2004 and have been a fixture in this league since.

Between 2007 and 2013 Cambridge and Blackheath met seven times at Granchester Road winning on six occasions, only losing the last encounter in the disastrous 2012/13 season. When we travelled to London - our first encounter at their new ground at Wes Hall - we lost by 10 points. They currently sit fifth, but lost last week to Ampthill and at Blaydon and only narrowly won at Hull Ionians.The Blood and Sand will hope to extend their poor run.Do come down and add to the Volac Park roar.

Car Wash

The U13s have arranged a summer tour to Italy. They are heading to Treviso, near Venice, to play in an international tournament. They are flying out on the 5th May and playing on the 6th and 7th flying home on the night of the 7th. However, they need to raise funds to pay for the trip. Therefore, if the weather is fine, they will be organising a car wash before and during the Blackheath match. The boys will be ready to start at 11:30 and will be accepting donations. Please give generously, we are suggesting at least £5 per car. If the weather is bad, they will try again on one of the remaining home games.

They are also looking for someone to sponsor the tour kit. If anyone would like their company name on the tour shirts, hoodies and shorts - or to make a donation - please contact the team here

Jan 17

Moseley Preview

This Saturday Cambridge host Birmingham Moseley for the first time in the leagues.

Major General Henry Havelock KCB was born in what is now Sunderland would have become a lawyer had he not been cut off by his father and requiring an income joined the Rifles. He gained fame in the First Afghan War and the Indian Mutiny. His statue stands in Trafalgar Square, even though Ken Livingstone suggested it be replaced by a more relevant figure. When a group of cricketers in Moseley formed a new cricket club, they named it in hounour of the recently deceased general.

A few years later some of the lads wanted to take up a winter sport and in 1873 Havelock Football club was founded. The cricketers not wanting their pristine turf to be disturbed by scrums made them find a new location. The initially played in neighbouring Balsall Heath but took the name Moseley FC and adopted red and black as the club colours. As for the Cricket Club - apart from a footnote in Moseley FC history, I can find no trace.

The fixture list of the time was ad hoc. In 1881 they traveled to Leicester for the first match of that town's new club. They had a fierce rivalry with Coventry, regular matches against Cardiff and Gloucester - but also played local sides such as Handsworth and Leamington Rovers. In the early days they had a number of different ground, settling in at the Reddings in 1883 - the first match was again against Leicester. The coming of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup brought competitive rugby, Moseley lifted that cup 9 times between 1881 and 1925. Moseley Wanderers represented Britain at the Paris Olympics.

The club remained one of the premier English clubs for over 100 years, they topped the Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph Merit Tables in 1976. They reached the final of the RFU knock out cup three times - sharing the 1982 cup with Gloucester after a draw at Twickenham. They entered the leagues in Division one and stayed in the top flight until 1991. Professionalism was not kind to the club, they went into administration, were bought out by local supporters. They moved from the Reddings first to the University and then to Billesley Common. More financial problems saw them drop to level 3, only to bounce back in 2006. The club has put a lot of money into developing its new home, which has meant there has been less money for players - which led to struggles and last season they were relegated to National 1 for the second time.

Most seasons if the relegated Championship side could keep its side together it would expect immediate promotion - but this is not a normal season. With Hartpury rampant, Plymouth recovering from its administration and Ampthill and Blackheath maintaining their position. Moseley have realised that they will face a second season in National 1. This has led to them trimming their budget further- they have announced that Kevin Maggs will not have his contract renewed - though he remains as coach until the end of the season. Last season they decided to adopt the name Birmingham Moseley - to retain the heritage while letting everyone know where they came from. Apparently too many people though they were from Molesey in Surrey, the home of Esher rugby.

So what of Moseley - it is a suburb of Birmingham home to authors Jonathon Coe who used it as inspiration for scenes in The Rotters Club and J.R.R. Tolkien, who used Sarhole Mill as inspiration for the Shire - even though the mill was itself an early site for the Industrial Revolution being owned by Matthew Boulton, who install a James Watt steam engine to power metal working there, before moving to larger premises at the Soho Works. Moseley is also home to musicians Christine McVie, of Chickenshack and Fleetwood Mac; Roy Wood, the Move, ELO and Wizzard; much of UB40 and Ocean Colour Scene - hence their album Moseley Shoals.

But what of rugby, the Blood and Sand were in high spirits when they visited Billesley - as they had just beaten Loughborough in a tight finish. However, the Moseley pack delivered a stern lesson in the realities as the hosts ran in 11 tries to our two in a 72-14 drubbing. Birmingham Moseley were taught their own lesson by Hartpury and have lost to Ampthill, Plymouth and Coventry but won all their other matches so sit fifth - with a game against Blaydon in hand. Cambridge are expecting another tough match. They will need the help of the Cambridge roar to lift them. Do get down and support the lads.

Jan 17

Darlington Mowden Park Home Preview

This Saturday, the Blood and Sand welcome Darlington Mowden Park to Volac Park.

Darlington is of course the home of the railways. Not only the original Stockton and Darlington Line, but a home to railway works that produced some of the most famous steam locomotives, many designed by chief engineer Sir Nigel Gresley.

His designs included:

- the A1 Peppercorn - some may have seen the Typhoon which was recently built at Darlington to the original designs, though with modern safety features;

- the A3 - including the Flying Scot the first steam locomotive to be recorded at 100mph;

- and the streamlined A4 - of which the most famous is Mallard still the fastest steam locomotive, though that specific engine was built at Doncaster. The record run causes a bearing to overheat - so it was not ale to continue the service beyond Peterborough. 

Sir Nigel retired to St. Albans where he bred ducks. There is now a statue of Sir Nigel at King's Cross - though it is missing the duck that was in the maquette.

We travelled to Darlington in hope. We had just had a close encounter with Old Albanian losing narrowly by two points. We hoped the wide pitch at the Northern Echo Arena would let us run - but stubborn home defence kept us out and could not stop the hosts scoring. We did score two late tries but lost 37-12.

Since then Darlington have struggled. Though the winter break may have been good for them. Last week DMP have completed a double over Ampthill winning 14-12 at home. This puts them a point behind Cambridge in the table. However, like many National 1 sides, they do much better at home than on the road. Aside from their early win at Ampthill, their only other away win was at Blaydon.

Ricky Reeves said that when Cambridge are on the front foot with the Cambridge crowd cheering them on - it is the best feeling in the world. The weather forecast is for sunshine following an overnight frost - which should make for running rugby. So come down and give the boys the support they deserve.

You can read Darlington's view of the match here

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